On July 22, a young man carried out an apparently well-crafted plan to communicate his personal political opinions, resulting in many people being killed, most of whom were teenagers and young men and women.
I live in Denmark and was staying in a summer house on the west coast of Jutland when the tragedy occurred. The house has no television – and not even a radio – because the owners are busy people who need a quiet retreat from time to time.
One of my sons had brought his iPod with him, and when the connection was clear, he kept us updated. We all became silent, asking ourselves, and, after a while, asking one another, Why? I started to pray for all of us, for all the people in Oslo, and for the world.
My prayers went like this: God is all Life and Love, and as Spirit, He is everywhere. No one – not one of His spiritual ideas, man or woman – can ever be outside His comfort and care. And we can all feel that divine care, here and now, because God has given us the capacity to feel His presence.
After I came home from the long weekend, I turned on my television to watch the news, and got the facts from Norwegian and Danish broadcasts. I saw people mourning in Oslo and in Copenhagen, gathering in silent solemnity, hugging one another, holding one another’s hands, holding flowers and candles to honor the deceased and show their loyalty and understanding toward their families.
I saw royalty, politicians, and citizens gathering in churches in Oslo, Stockholm, and Copenhagen to pray and sing together, standing up together against the incomprehensible event they had witnessed. Likewise, Muslims gathered in mosques. I felt they were all saying with one voice: We want peace, not hate. I saw a common love expressed.
I saw interviews of people in the street without any anger or hatred expressed, but with a strong resistance to evil, a will to overcome this together, full of dignity and respect for those who had died.
I was thinking how wise they all behaved in Oslo, how tolerance and genuine love for humanity and their unity were expressed. What they had experienced could have led to anger and hate and hate crimes, but it didn’t.
The news reported that the young man had wanted open doors during his court meeting after his arrest so he could spread his ideas to the media. This request was not granted, and the doors were closed by the court so he was not given a platform from which to speak.
July 22 will stay with many of us. The most important lesson will be that evil can be met by love in its many forms at all times.